Well, this is it. This was my last week of classes, though it's not over yet. I still have one last paper to hand in next week and then I've got to start worrying about exams. Still, hopefully things will go okay. On the bright side, the TA strike finally ended, but it might have done so a few weeks too late. Things have been thrown completely out of order thanks to the strike, and it's been tough getting back on track. I've also got a paper that's been giving me a great deal of trouble. It's due next week and various factors have delayed it, now I have to get started and that's proving difficult.
This week, we watched a strange British horror film called Kill List, and learned about how modern horror films have become a lot more self aware. We spent a lot of time discussing the Scream franchise and brought up Cabin in the Woods. Am I the only one who couldn't really get into that one? I don't know why, considering it was Joss Whedon who wrote it and it drew heavily from Lovecraft but for some reason there is something about it that just didn't seem to work for me. Personally, I wasn't very interested in Kill List either. I can give it some credit for having a decent character in MyAnna Buring but she wasn't exactly the main focus. Of course the professor did say that the director of Kill List went on the record to say that "you are supposed to be suffering", so I guess he technically succeeded (if you count the type of suffering that comes from watching a terrible movie), though for all the wrong reasons.
We also had to finish Cinema Studies by studying art cinema, and of course I had to sit through L'avventura. I didn't have high hopes for this one based on my previous experiences with art cinema in 8½ and I Am Curious (Yellow) but I tried to keep an open mind. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. It was kinda tedious, even if it had a decent premise (a group of characters being affected by the disappearance and uncertain fate of a young woman) but it proved so disjointed and padded out that it got rather annoying. I'm just glad its finally over and I can get away from Art Cinema at least for a little while. Yes, I know this stuff inspired some of my favorite filmmakers but I just can't stand it.
Fortunately, we were at least able to end the year with a good movie in the form of Her. This is one I'd put off watching since it came out, but it's actually really good. Considering this came out around the same time as Under The Skin, it's kinda a shame that I've only now just seen it, because with hindsight Her would have been a good movie to reference in the paper I just finished. I could have compared how Scarlett Johansson explores sexuality in two very different ways (playing an alien and a computer operating system, respectively).
It was also interesting just how human they made an operating system. While this might not be the first time human emotions have been applied to artificial intelligence (Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey being perhaps one of the most famous examples), I don't think I've ever seen a relationship quite like this one. It was also interesting to see that they had a more positive view of artificial intelligence, instead of going the obvious route of having the computers rising up and enslaving the humans. The idea of falling in love with a phone sounds insane at first, but something about it actually works in a weird kind of way.
I don't think it should come as a surprise that the season 2 finale of Banshee got extremely violent, but it kinda was considering how gruesome it was even by the show's usual standards. We lost a whole bunch of people in that season finale. On the plus side, big bad gangster Rabbit is finally dead and now Lucas and Carrie don't have to worry about him coming after them anymore. That might not be such a bad thing, and might have even been a happy ending if not for the other (unrelated) murders that happened afterward.
For one thing, Alex Longshadow was killed by Rebecca. He might not have been the most likable character on the series, but there are some serious consequences stemming from his death. For one thing there is a nasty hardbodied Native American with Schwarzenegger muscles looking to avenge him, and his methods include rallying together an army of Native Americans. Nola isn't too happy about it either, and I suspect she may have a desire to avenge Alex, but she seems to be doing her own thing. She also seems to be sparking a friendship with Carrie, perhaps a chance at reconcilliation between their respective people?
Perhaps the most brutal development was losing Emmett. The poor guy was just minding his own business buying groceries with his wife when one of those angry racists from earlier in the season showed up with a machine gun and killed both of them. The good news is that Lucas, Brock, and Siobhan managed to get revenge on said angry racist (though perhaps not in the most ethical way), but that does not change the fact that they lost a cop. Also, Brock grew a beard between seasons, which was surprising. I didn't even recognize him at first.
The one bright side that came with losing Emmett was that we got a new character in the form of a Native American cop, who it looks like might allow an opportunity for the show to explore that side of the community in more detail. This new cop seemed promising, and it looks like he is a fairly competent character, and we have also gotten to meet two other cops on the Native American reservation; one of them a fairly capable woman. There are some understandable tensions but I can see these two different police departments forming an uneasy reconciliation somewhere down the line. That's one thing I can say about Banshee. In addition to a rather impressive array of strong female characters, it also has some complex Native Americans who definitely subvert stereotypes.
As far as I'm aware, there are really two major stereotypes for Native Americans in Hollywood. The first is not seen much anymore but was quite common in westerns during the Studio Era, where the Native Americans are seen as savages, stripped of all humanity and seen as nothing more than an obstacle to be eradicated for western colonialism. The second, and admittedly more positive stereotype, is to cast the Native Americans as wise pacifists. On Banshee there is a variety of different characterizations to the Native American cast, and it's interesting that they are never fully cast as being any better or worse than any of the white characters (not to mention that prior to now Alex Longshadow was probably the greatest threat to bigshot tycoon Kai Proctor, they're certainly capable of a lot of things).
Meanwhile on Hannibal I finally encountered a female serial killer, who proved to be a very interesting character. One thing that often gets on my nerves in these otherwise quite intriguing crime shows is when the characters encounter the site of a murder and despite having no immediate evidence to the killer's identity they just assume it was a man who did it. I find it somewhat irritating when Sherlock Holmes or Will Graham keep referring to the at-present anonymous killer as a "he" when at that point in the story there is absolutely no reason to assume the killer is a man. I thought it was interesting to finally see a female killer make an appearance on the show, and they really got into her mind which was interesting. Unfortunately, they then killed her off just as it looked like she might be getting an interesting story to herself. That was kinda annoying, and I think I can understand why the writers made that choice but I would have wanted to see more of her. Still, this show isn't exactly short on strong female characters so I suspect she isn't the last female serial killer we'll meet.
Also, while I haven't had much of a chance to think much about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I have found myself considering a few peculiar ideas related to it. I have had this thought going through my head recently that Marvel and D.C. should get together and make Wonder Woman and Black Widow an official romantic couple. A friend of mine brought over some of his LEGO superhero minifigures during the weekend, and I found myself unable to resist pairing up these two superheroines despite the forbidden romance that comes from them being based in different continuities. Unfortunately, the guy who brought the LEGO over did not take kindly to me pairing up these two, and apparently thought I was crazy to even consider it. That, and he was somewhat angry because I took the picture below without his permission. I was going to do a second one where you could see Black Widow's face but he caught me in the act and took back both minifigures before I could take it.
Okay, perhaps Wonder Woman and Black Widow are a bit of an odd pairing. Maybe while we're at it we should throw in Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne (well... they're both millionaires who use their wealth to create superhero equipment and use it to fight crime so why not?). Seriously, though. The Marvel franchise is doing pretty good with its depictions of women (though it would do better if they could just get that Black Widow film going) and they're doing okay in terms of racial diversity, at least in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which has had at least two strong black characters and two Asian American actresses in the main cast (sort of... Chloe Bennet, who plays Skye, is half-Chinese, and this was written into her character). What they are still missing is diversity in sexual orientation. Maybe it's about time we got an openly gay superhero, perhaps even a gay couple. Perhaps even two gay couples (one male and one female). I don't see any reason why we shouldn't, and in fact we probably should be encouraging more positive images of homosexuals on film.
There is also another idea that has been going through my head recently for a future Marvel film. They keep finding ways to get Stan Lee to make cameos, and now I'm starting to think he should get his own spin-off movie. The plot could center around Stan Lee as a bumbling everyman who is just trying to go about various everyday activities, only to keep getting caught in the middle of the various adventures faced by Marvel's superheroes. He just wants a stable job and to get the girl but he is constantly getting mixed up in extraordinary situations, and then maybe he ends up being the only one who can save the day at the end. Does anyone else want to see this happen? It would certainly add a new perspective to the Marvel Universe and the way I see it could either be brilliant or a lame attempt to cash-in on its popularity depending on who was put in charge.
Exams will be starting up soon, and that is going to make things difficult, but on the bright side I'll have slightly more free time, so I can start thinking about taking part in other people's blogathons again, and I might even join in one or two once everything is out of the way. I started one of my own on Wednesday and I think it should be fun to try out. Maybe once I'm done with all this I can get on working on my own entry.
Stuff From Other Bloggers
- Fritzi Kramer provides an insightful essay on A Trip to the Moon, apparently at my request.